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An “anti-establishment” economist at the head of Costa Rica

Rodrigo Chaves, in San José, on April 3, 2022.

Costa Rican voters bet on a fresh face in politics. Rodrigo Chaves, a 60-year-old conservative, won the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, April 3, with 52.8% of the vote. A supporter of “law and order”, this economist who breaks with the establishment has benefited from the rejection of traditional political elites by the population. This former and ephemeral Minister of Finance (2019-2020) promises to revive the degraded economy of the small Central American country long nicknamed the “Switzerland of Latin America”.

“I am committed to driving a profound change in the way of governing”, insisted Mr. Chaves Sunday evening, after the announcement of the preliminary results under the cries of joy of his supporters, gathered in a hotel in San Jose, the capital. The champion of the young Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD, centre-right) was nearly six points ahead of his opponent, former President José Maria Figueres (1994-1998), of the National Liberation Party (PLN, also centre-right). , taking advantage of dissatisfaction with the outgoing government.

Costa Ricans know little about Mr. Chaves, who created the surprise in the first round, on February 6, by winning 16% of the vote. Credited with only 5% of the voting intentions at the start of a campaign with an exploded offer, with 25 presidential candidates, the former senior official worked twenty-seven years abroad for the World Bank before returning in Costa Rica three years ago. He was appointed, in October 2019, Minister of Finance by the current President, Carlos Alvarado (2018-2022), of the Citizen Action Party (PAC, center left). But six months later, he slammed the door of the government, justifying positions “irreconcilable”.

“Giving Power Back to Citizens”

This outsider seduced the voters, disappointed by the eight years in power of the PAC which had put an end, in 2014, to forty years of bipartisanship of the PLN and the Party of Social-Christian Unity (PUSC, center right). The PAC did not obtain, on February 6, during the legislative elections which were held at the same time as the first round of the presidential election, any of the 57 seats in the Assembly. Mr. Chaves poses as a slayer of the corruption of the political elite, embodied according to him by his adversary, Mr. Figueres. This is none other than the son of Jose Maria “Don Pepe” Figueres, founder of the PLN and president three times, who remained famous for having abolished the army in 1948. Mr. Figueres was implicated in 2004 , after receiving 900,000 dollars (815,000 euros) for a consultancy mission on behalf of the French telecommunications giant, Alcatel, which had then obtained public contracts, but was never prosecuted.

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